888 said to have rejected £700m takeover approach by Playtech
William Hill owner 888 Holdings has reportedly rejected a £700m takeover approach by Playtech.
The Sunday Times cited City sources as saying that Playtech made a written indicative approach to acquire 888 at 156p a share in July, only for it to be rejected as undervaluing the company.
Since then, 888’s shares have fallen to 70.6p, valuing the business at little more than £300m.
888 paid nearly £2bn for William Hill in 2022. Alongside its own brands, it also owns Scandinavian bookmaker Mr Green and a betting joint venture with the American magazine Sports Illustrated.
Playtech is largely a "white label" gambling technology business, used by brands to run their gaming websites, but it also has a leading Italian betting brand of its own, Snai.
One person familiar with the company’s thinking suggested to The Sunday Times that it could combine 888’s brands with Snai, then hive off Playtech’s business-to-business operation as a separate company.
It was understood to have identified up to £170m in possible savings from integrating the businesses, although some in the Playtech camp did not recognise that figure.
The rejection by 888 of Playtech’s approach follows claims that Lord Mendelsohn, the Labour peer who chairs 888’s board, held early-stage merger discussions with Jason Robins, the founder of American gambling giant DraftKings, earlier this year.
Playtech and DraftKings are understood to have sounded out the William Hill board over a potential takeover in previous years, before it was bought by 888 Holdings.
At 0830 GMT, 888 shares were up 12% at 79p.
Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor, said: "Shares in 888 have had a tough time this year, shedding over 20% year-on-year even after today’s surge and 50% in the past five years, highlighting the potential for an opportunistic takeover. Playtech is not the only party reported to be interested - in November, the Financial Times reported that US betting group DraftKings was also eyeing up a bid for 888 over the summer.
"888 has suffered a series of setbacks lately with a profit warning in September, UK regulatory headwinds amid a clampdown on player safety, and a series of C-suite changes including the departure of its former CEO in January which sent shares tumbling at the time."